Cindy Sherman’s latest series examines our fractured sense of self

Created using a mixture of digital manipulation and more traditional methods of transformation such as make-up, the artist’s new collages are going on display at Hauser & Wirth New York

Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #632, 2010/2023. All images © Cindy Sherman, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

“When I’m shooting, I’m trying to get to a point where I’m basically not recognising myself. That’s often what it’s about,” says Cindy Sherman. While explorations of identity and representation have become increasingly commonplace in the art world in recent years, the US artist has spent the best part of four decades meditating on these themes.

Since the early 2000s, Sherman has increasingly used digital manipulation to reflect on society’s fractured sense of self in the 21st century. Her latest body of work is no exception, collaging photographs of different elements of her own face to create entirely new characters.

Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #654, 2023
Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #646, 2023

The untitled series of 30 new works are going on display at Hauser & Wirth New York, marking the artist’s return to the SoHo district where she launched her career in the late 1970s with the debut of her now iconic Untitled Film Stills series at the non-profit Artists Space.

In some ways, the new work harks back to Sherman’s early black-and-white cut-out collages from the 1970s – but manipulated and scaled up for the internet era. They combine a digital collaging technique, which incorporates both black and white and colour photographs, with her more traditional methods of transformation, such as make-up, wigs, and costumery.

Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #629, 2010/2023
Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #633, 2010/2023

To create the fragmented figures, who simultaneously laugh, wince, smirk and grimace at the viewer, Sherman photographed isolated sections of her own eyes, nose, lips, skin, hair, and ears, and then cut, pasted and warped them. Some of the works also draw on images she started working on in 2010 but subsequently abandoned. The end result is a group of unsettling, bordering on grotesque, portraits of women.

The growing influence of AI also looms large in the show. While other high-profile artists have been damning of the technology’s infringement of the traditional domain of artists, in extracts from Sherman’s diary published in the exhibition’s catalogue, she notes how face apps (many of which use AI) directly influenced her use of Photoshop to create the series. She’s also been experimenting with a series of AI-generated images on Instagram, which have been met with a mixed response despite the fact she has said she doesn’t consider them to be artworks.

Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #659, 2023
Cindy Sherman Hauser & Wirth
Untitled #650, 2023

But the artist has often been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. In 2017, she began using Instagram to upload portraits that use several face-altering apps to highlight the dissociative nature of the social media platform from reality.

Given the growing ubiquity of airbrushing, face-tuning apps and de-ageing filters, Sherman’s latest series can be seen as a comment on the splintered and superficial parts of ourselves that we often choose to display to the rest of the world nowadays.

Cindy Sherman is at Hauser & Wirth New York from January 18 to March 16 2024;